The Role of Men & Boys

The issue of men and boys in prevention of violence against women and girls (VAWG)

Firstly in schools:

In some cultures, boys are raised with a sense of entitlement, they feel entitled to abuse women. A man is always right. Women are raised with a sense of subservience, they are prepared for rape. There is a high rate of incest. VAWG has always been seen as a woman’s problem.

The Co-exist project in Kenya targets adolescent boys. It is a 3 year programme, using music and dance, and involving families and community elders. It addresses the question of what is the role of a man, what is expected of a man, it raises the issue of respect for women and for themselves, and is proving successful.

In many countries the focus has turned to prevention, starting in schools, working either with boys alone, or with boys and girls.

Secondly, we must enlist the support of men:

For example, in 2014, Emma Watson, one of the Harry Potter stars, spoke very movingly at the UN about the He-for-She campaign. This was launched in 2014 to encourage men and boys to be advocates for gender equality. Another example is the White Ribbon Alliance which is the world’s largest male-led movement to end men’s violence against women. They have an ambassadors’ programme which seeks to engage prominent men in different fields to promote the message that change in attitude and behaviour is necessary to prevent VAW.

And finally, preventing men from re-offending:

There are accredited programmes in the UK, lasting 6 months with weekly sessions. Most perpetrators embark on the sessions feeling that they are victims. They are often not aware of the impact of their behaviour on their children.

The children involved in domestic violence are more likely to become victims or perpetrators themselves, with higher rates of depression, suicide, eating disorders and behavioural problems, and a spotlight has rightfully been shone on them.

A randomised trial under the auspices of Cambridge University is underway, looking at shorter programmes for first time or mild offenders (CARA project).

Scandinavia has been a beacon in the area of treating perpetrators. Alternatives to Violence (ATV), based on a psychological model, was started in 1987 in Norway, and has gradually evolved to include women victims, and their children, as well as the perpetrators.

by Dr. Clarissa Fabre


  2. Jewkes R, Flood M, Lang J. From work with men and boys to changes of social norms and reduction of inequities in gender relations: a conceptual shift in prevention of violence against women and girls. Lancet 2014. Published online Nov 21.
  3. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Domestic violence and abuse: how health services, social care and the organisations they work with can respond effectively. NICE, 2014